At the Helm: July 30 Morning Briefing

Good morning Team USA fans. Greetings from cool and cloudy Weymouth. We’ll have some rain moving in later today as well, so, basically… welcome to England! English summer weather is back.

Day 1 of these Olympic Games is in the books now, and the racing schedule expands today. Finns, Stars and Match Racing will all race again today, and Lasers, Radials and 49ers will have their first real racing, and both RS:X classes will have practice racing today. Here’s our press summary from yesterday’s racing.

The expected wind speed today is for about 10-15 knots out of the southwest, so, the racing should be good today. Not too much, not too little, just right.

Yesterday felt like opening night, in a way. We’ve been working and training for years for these Games, and yesterday’s action was our first real chance to test drive our operations, our Games support, everything we are doing to create a winning atmosphere. And in general, things went really well. The team was calm and cool. We have a lot of experience here, on and off the water, so it felt like just another day at the office. There are definitely a few things we need to do better as a team, and we’ll work on that starting today. We want everything to be totally smooth and bump-in-the-road free.

Some people have emailed me in the last few days to ask me what I mean about “on-shore operations.” It’s a good question because unless you’ve been to a Games, you have no idea the extra hoops that have to be jumped through on a daily basis. Here are some good examples:

1. Managing the fact that half your support team is “credentialed” and able to go inside the venue, and the rest of your team is not credentialed, so they have to be set up outside the venue somewhere. We’re lucky to have Camp Billingham, our team headquarters nearby, so it’s fairly easy for us, but it’s still a challenge.

2. Managing the distractions of lots of extra people, like more friends and family than ever would go to a normal regatta (we’ll have a friends and family party tonight, and we’re expecting close to 100 people). There is lots more press who are in the venue, but they are constrained to the “mixed zone,” a place that the sailors are required to visit each day for post-race press.

3. The potential distraction from the fact that there are tons of fully-armed military and police roaming around, with automatic weapons in hand. Might not sound like much of a distraction, but the only reason they are there is because of real concerns of terrorism at the Games. We all try not to think about it, but let’s not be naive.

Those are the obvious ones. So one of the ways we manage it is by limiting the points of contact for each sailor. When they are in the boat park or at Camp Billingham, we don’t like tons of activity, tons of people asking each sailor for this or that. We limit the points of contact, and carefully consider when information is shared, by whom, when and how. We limit the number of emails. We limit the number of people walking up and saying “I need you to do” this or that.

For example, when the sailors get back to shore each day, I meet them on the dock or on the boat ramp. At that point, I tell them if they are being drug tested. I’ll know because the drug testers will be waiting on the ramp as well. If they are getting drug tested, I’ll call one of our physio therapists to come down and escort the sailor through drug testing, so we can monitor the whole process. We’ve all heard stories about disputed drug tests, and there is a human element in this, which means mistakes can happen. We don’t want mistakes to happen on our watch.

I’ll also advise the sailors of any pressing media requests, and let them know that Dana will meet them in the mixed zone to escort them through.

And if the sailors got into any protests, they tell me (we are not allowed to have ANY radio contact with people on the water, so when the sailors hit the dock, that’s our first chance to know) and I’ll call Dave Perry on the radio so he can get to work. Dave is here as our rules advisor and he is, without question, the best in the world at that role. He is the master of the racing rules.

That’s just a taste. It’s a complicated game, and our job is to make it easier, simpler. We try to make it feel as normal as possible.

That’s it for today. I hope you’ll keep following along. The show has just begun and there is lots of action left.

Sail fast,

Dean Brenner, Team Leader


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